Vera M.E. Velasco PhD


Vera in lab
Vera M.E. Velasco studying roots on seedlings grown on phosphate-deficient gel media, 2012
    Vera Velasco is the Senior Research Associate for Greenhouse Operations at University of Toronto - Mississauga.  She received her BSc in Plant Genetics and Molecular Biology from the University of the Philippines where she characterized the genetic differences among several accessions of the Pili tree (Canarium ovatum) under the supervision of Dr. Merlyn Mendioro. She received her PhD in Plant Biology at McMaster University.  During her doctoral studies with Dr. Elizabeth Weretilnyk, she investigated the acclimation of Arabidopsis and Eutrema to phosphorus and sulfur deficiencies.   Vera was also a postdoc in the Department of Biology at the University of Toronto in Mississauga with Dr. Ingo Ensminger where she studied the physiology and transcriptome of various Douglas-fir varieties under extreme climatic conditions.  
        Vera grew up in a barrio in the Philippines where a career in science is unheard of and scientists are regarded like unicorns and mermaids. She took biology as a pre-med in university but fell in love with the complexity of plant processes discussed in third-year plant molecular biology and biochemistry. Thanks to the guidance and support of Vera’s undergraduate and graduate thesis advisors, her fascination with how plants live in many different environments grew deeper.  She is currently investigating plant responses to abiotic stressors such as nutrient limitation and extreme drought and heat episodes. Vera hopes to contribute to developing tools and strategies for a healthy flora amidst climate change.
      Apart from plant science, Vera is also passionate about helping the Filipino-Canadian community and has co-founded the Filipinos in Canada- Academics, Researchers and Scholars (FiCARS) association.


Current Research

Physiology and molecular biology of  interior and coastal varieties of Douglas-fir  grown under conditions simulating future climates to determine forest tree traits that can confer success under limiting resources and high temperatures
Physiology of Eutrema salsugineum under low phosphate conditions

Select Peer-reviewed Publications

Velasco VME, Ferreira A, Zaman Z, Noordermeer D, Ensminger I, Wegrzyn L (2022) A long-read and short-read transcriptomics approach provides the first high-quality reference transcriptome and genome annotation for Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas-fir), G3 Genes|Genomes|Genetics 13, jkac304,
Noordermeer, D., Velasco, V., & Ensminger, I. (2021). Autumn warming delays downregulation of photosynthesis and does not increase risk of freezing damage in interior and coastal Douglas-fir seedlings. Frontiers in Forests and Global Change4, 54
Velasco VME, Irani S, Axakova A, da Silva R, Summer P, Weretilnyk EA (2020) Evidence that tolerance of Eutrema salsugineum to low phosphate conditions is hard-wired by constitutive metabolic and root-associated adaptations. Planta 251:18
Velasco VME, Mansbridge J, Bremner S, Carruthers K, Summers P, Sung W, Champigny M, Weretilnyk EA (2016) Acclimation of the crucifer Eutrema salsugineum to phosphate limitation is associated with constitutively high expression of phosphate starvation genes. Plant, Cell and Environment 39: 1818-1834
Mendioro MS, Diaz MGQ, Velasco VME, Alcaraz MC, Lalamunan RC, Amoloza KG, Villamael LN (2008) Genetic characterization of pili (Canarium ovatum Engl.) from Albay, Camarines Norte, and Camarines Sur through isozyme analysis. Philippine Journal of Science 137: 115-125.
Velasco VME (2017) Traits underlying phosphorus use by the extremophyte Eutrema salsugineum. PhD Dissertation. McMaster University, Hamilton, ON
Velasco VME (2003) Genetic characterization of Pili (Canarium ovatum Engl.) (Burseraceae) by isozyme analysis. BSc Dissertation.  University of the Philippines, Los Banos, Laguna

Select presentations 


Velasco VME, Noordermeer D, Sen T, Tongson E, Fuentes S and Ensminger I (2022) Douglas-fir does not recover from co-occuring heat and drought.  Botany 2022. Anchorage, Alaska.
Velasco VME (invited speaker, 2021) Effects of simulation of future climate to physiology of conifer tree Douglas-fir.  Temp Check:  Climate Change.  Biological Research and Services Laboratory. University of the Philippines, Diliman.
Velasco VME, Sen T, Noordermeer D and Ensminger I (2020) Comparison of gene expression among Douglas-fir provenances under climate stressors. Plant Biology Worldwide Summit.  
Velasco VME, Sen T, Noordermeer D and Ensminger I (2019) Photosynthesis and chlorophyll fluorescence of coastal and interior Douglas-fir under extreme heatwave.  Canadian Society of Plant Biologists (CSPB) Meeting.  St. Catherines, ON.
Velasco VME, Sen T, Noordermeer D & Ensminger I (2019).  Time machine: Comparative physiology and transcriptomics of Douglas-fir under future climate.  University of Connecticut.  Storrs, CT, USA.
Velasco VME, Noordermeer D & Ensminger I (2019).  Comparative transcriptomics of Douglas-fir.  CoAdapTree symposium:  Healthy trees for future climates. Vancouver, BC
Velasco VME, Noordermeer D & Ensminger I (2019).  Interspecific variation in the response of Douglas-fir to climatic extremes.  CoAdapTree Science Meeting.   
Velasco VME & Ensminger I (2018).  Phenotyping and comparative transcriptomics of coastal and interior Douglas-fir provenances under elevated temperature and water deficit.  CoAdapTree Science Meeting. 
Velasco VME, Sen T, Noordermeer D & Ensminger I (2018) Variation in photosynthesis and water status in response to a simulated heatwave in seedlings of coastal and interior Douglas-fir.  CSPB Meeting.  London, ON.
Velasco VME, Sen T, Noordermeer D & Ensminger I (2018) Variation in temperature, water regulation and photosynthesis among contrasting Douglas-fir provenances under extreme summer heatwave.  Plant Biology. Montreal, QC
Velasco VME, Axacova A, Summers P & Weretilnyk I (2018).  Phosphorus use efficiency traits in the extremophyte Eutrema salsugineum.  Plant Biology. Montreal, QC
Weretilnyk EA & Velasco VME (2017) Adaptations towards low phosphate soils: Insights from the extremophyte Eutrema salsugineum.  International Botanical Congress. Shenzhen, China
Velasco VME, Summers P & Weretilnyk EA (2016) Adaptation of Eutrema salsugineum to extreme abiotic conditions includes tolerance to low phosphate. Plant Biotechnology.  Kingston, ON
Velasco VME, Summers P & Weretilnyk EA (2015) Eutrema salsugineum: Extreme capacity for stress tolerance may involve modest capacity for change. CSPB Meeting. Toronto, ON
Velasco VME, Summers P & Weretilnyk EA (2014). Phenotypic and gene expression responses of extremophile Eutrema salsugineum to phosphate limitation.  Plant Biology 2014. Portland, OR, USA
Velasco VME, Summers P & Weretilnyk EA (2012). The effect of low phosphate conditions on the growth of the extremophile crucifer, Thellungiella salsuginea.  CSPB Meeting. Waterloo, ON